Why developing trust with your doctor is important

I’ve spent a lot of space on this site writing about participating in your healthcare so you get the right care.

And, I talked about developing a “relationship” with your doctor so you can effectively communicate. Relationship does not mean drinking buddy, golf partner, or someone to do shopping with. What is meant by “relationship” is developing a trust that allows you to effectively and unashamedly discuss your medical concerns and question treatment options with your doctor. When patients develop this trust, they are more likely to comply with doctors recommendations and therefore get better care. If you passively take in what the doctor tells you, you’re not involved and less likely to be on-board with your treatment and less likely to follow her instructions. So, it was not surprising how doctors responded to a survey from Consumers Report, and reported in the Washington Post, about their professional challenges and about what patients could do to get the most out of their “relationship” with their doctors.

1. Physicians take the long view. Doctors said that forming a long-term relationship with a primary-care physician is the most important thing a patient can do to obtain better medical care, with 76 percent saying it would help “very much.” If your doctor does not take your questions seriously, find another doctor.

2. Being respectful and courteous toward your physician was the No. 2 thing doctors said patients could do to get better care; 61 percent said it would help “very much.” But 70 percent said that since they had started practicing medicine, respect and appreciation from patients had gotten “a little” or “much” worse.

3. Take your medications. Noncompliance with advice or treatment recommendations was doctors’ top complaint. Most said it affected their ability to provide optimal care; 37 percent said it did so “a lot.” This is connected to number 1.

4. Doctors were hard on themselves when it came to judging their ability to minimize the pain, discomfort or disability caused by a condition. Only 37 percent thought they were “very” effective; another 60 percent thought they were “somewhat” effective.

5. Keep track of your care (participate in your care).  Slowly but surely, primary-care doctors are switching over to electronic medical records. Thirty-seven percent said they keep their records electronically only, compared with just 24 percent who did so in 2007. But they want you to know that it still pays to keep track of your medical history yourself. Eighty-nine percent said that keeping an informal log of treatments, drugs, changes in condition, notes from previous doctor visits, and tests and procedures could be helpful. Electronic medical records are only as good as the person importing the data.

6. Doctors are not convinced that online research is helpful, to put it mildly. Almost half said online research helps very little or not at all, and just 8 percent thought it was very helpful. Use reputable on-line sites (as listed in the appendix in my book).

In my many years in the healthcare system, I’ve seen people pay more attention to the care of their automobiles than their health! Life is precious, so when the opportunity presents itself to improve your health without little more exertion than bringing a pen and paper to your office visit, do it so you’ll be around to drive that car of yours.

Jeffrey I. Kreisberg served on the faculty the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where he was a Professor of Pathology, Medicine, Surgery, Urology, and Molecular Medicine.  He is the author of Taking Control of Your Healthcare. He blogs at Taking Control of Your Healthcare and can be reached on Twitter @kreisberg.

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